I’m telling you life follows our vision, I last left you all with my desire to have an exotic adventure, as I had just watched EAT PRAY & LOVE. We’d postponed our plans to go back to Sayulita, Mexico and therefore Chattanooga was to be my Riviera experience.
We checked in to an old hotel that has been totally redone – The Reed House, put our stuff down and hopped on one of the electric trolley/buses that deliver people for free around the city. Chattanooga has an interesting history; it feels like a cross between Appalachia and the Deep South – in fact the end of the Appalachian Mountains is there. The Tennessee River moves right through the city tying together the Alabama, Tennessee & Georgia state lines; all 3 of these states share Look Out Mountain.
We made a journey to the top, climbing high into the sky it felt more like traveling through a tunnel of time. Once we reached the top I felt as if I’d arrived somewhere else. We paid the fee to walk around the Point Park – this is where a giant monument rests, however before entering the park we stopped by a tiny museum and listened to stories of the great Civil War battle that took place there. The views are spectacular and not only did I have flashes of soldiers but also Native American’s – you see this area was big time Indian land. The soil is rich, the river wide and alive and the mountains offer a refreshing change of climate once summer arrives. In the fashion of modern man, disregarding the amazing natural life force Chattanooga became a major industrial city producing huge amounts of steel polluting and destroying all that was beautiful – at one point in time it was not seen for it’s beauty but for it’s poor air quality. Most folks referred to Chattanooga as the Pittsburgh of the south.
The loss of the steel era has been tough economically but environmentally a gift has been blessed upon the residents. The air is 1,000 times better and the river is celebrated once again – the bluffs are covered with art galleries and parks and people have returned to celebrate the cities beauty.
As we rolled down the mountain we stopped for a bottle of water at a tiny little mountain shack shop – the quilts for sale called our names. What was fascinating was the woman behind the counter – she’d moved to Chattanooga 50 years ago from Virginia and never left. The mountain had merged with her soul and the two were intertwined, her wonderful accent was a fine tour guide as she channeled the mountains voice via stories of it’s past.
Our next great stop was a used bookstore in town; again a character of a woman hooked my attention. I must say that the rhythm and manner in which older educated southern women speak is delightful – the placement and choice of words is a hook for my heart – melodic, slow and spaced, leaving room for the humid air to move through each thought.
Of course we loved the obvious tourist attractions the Aquarium was fantastic, resting along the riverbank full of glorious creatures – my favorite the sea dragons. The girls favorite? The indoor pool back at the hotel– funny I remember being them, all I cared about was swimming in a pool.
Lee bought us tickets to the Imax 3d movie with Kelly Slater – THE WAVE. A new experience for me and let me tell y’all it was AMAZING. The movie was all about TAHITI! Yep, Julia Roberts went to Bali and Tahiti came to me– I found myself along with Bella and Lola reaching for the water, as it washed over us in 3d form.
Now for the eating part – it wasn’t tough – Chattanooga has a food movement! We lunched at the whole foods were I filled up on Kale, beets & Portobello mushrooms. We ate dinner in a great place called EASY – lentil soup, salad & sweet potatoes. Southern food can be some of the healthiest foods if prepared in an ancestral way – meaning cutting the excess fat & sugar.
I loved Signal Mountain, which is located across the river from Look Out Mountain (makes sense hun?) is just as fine of a place however the tunnel of time that it hooked was mine.
The girls and I were walking down the path to get a better glance of the river when a woman approached me. She was wearing sunglasses but I could tell from her breathing that she was totally distraught. She didn’t look at me but moved close and just above a whisper said “I’m having a very hard time being alone, I don’t do well being alone. I’m sorry to bother you.” I knew she was having a panic attack. I reached out touched her shoulder and said, “It’s OK, your not alone. We are here.” “Thank you, my husband and my daughter are down walking the trails and I’m frightened.” “No worries; come walk with the girls and me. I will wait with you.” The four of us walked down by the river view platform, she shared snippets of her life – when she was 3 she was in a terrible car accident – her father was killed, then when she was 16 she almost drowned – I understood, she doesn’t trust life and at 3 years old she lost her rope that connected her to her faith. I was reminded of my life and all of the car accidents that consumed my 18th year of my life, I thought of the loss and remembered waking up also unable to find my string. For many years I searched for this thread, not knowing that the thread was connected to my faith and my faith was the one thing that could always be there waiting in the wing for me in times of need to cling.
Signal Mountain gave me a sign -It was as if everything had stopped on top of that mountain – just above a whisper I told this stranger “Push through your fear, if you can just this once you’ll gain a capable reference point to return to every time you get scared. This process will create more and more resilient places to pull from deep inside, decreasing the power of those scary memories – strengthening the positive. Life never really leaves us alone – if we reach out someone shows up.” Suddenly her husband appeared and she turned toward her lifeline. Then she was gone, I wondered was she even real? Did she appear so that I would hear aloud what I know in my heart? Isn’t everything we say for ourselves first? Was the signal on top of the mountain one from deep down inside of me?
That night I dreamed of skeletons dressed in confederate uniforms, I saw my husband as a fine and beautiful man, too dressed as a confederate soldier. He was standing on top of what seemed to be Look Out Mountain, watching Atlanta burn. The battle of Look Out Mountain was the begging of the end for the Confederate South. I didn’t just see the outside of this man but his interior self – he was genuine and torn with what was happening to the world he believed in. There was a woman solid and strong with brown hair, long full skirt and shawl by his side – I felt a tunnel of time plow through my chest. This man, my husband of now, dressed as a man of then was heart broken.
My non-dreaming self was torn with all of this comprehension, I’m a Yankee and an abolitionist since childhood when Harriet Tubman came into my world at 6 years old via history class. I always felt dread towards the south and saw the Civil War as the South’s fear of losing slavery – but now I understand there was more to it.
Now that I live here that fear has shifted to an understanding and compassion for all involved– things are not always as we assume them to be, there are many layers to everything. When I lived in Mexico I was enthralled with the duality that exists, yet here there is duality too, again I am caught in its rapture.
I awoke from my dream heavy in my heart and the vision of the woman next to my husband stayed with me. Again I had judged southern women, seeing them as passive and indirect. Oh, how sorry I am and how wrong I was. What I admire the most is the grace that southern women display and I am honored that my girls are absorbing these traits. It’s wonderful to watch my assumptions shatter and disappear, allowing me to see people for their individual experiences – without judgment. A sure reflection of the life I’m leading and of course the vision I hold of myself
Monday morning we were ready to get home and back to our lives, we were rested, relaxed & connected – our “pod” was one again – the true point of a family vacation.
Chattanooga didn’t stay behind she climbed in the back seat of my mind, as more was to be revealed…
To Be Continued….